The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Journalism
Making It Pleasant For The Horse, 1884 — A recent article by Barry Smith in the Elko Daily Free Press delves into the tall tales and hoaxes that were the hallmark of Nevada journalism in the late 19th century. Mark Twain is the best known of these Nevada journalist hoaxers. But another master of the art form was Sam Davis, creator of the apocryphal Wabuska Mangler, as well as inventor of a horse-raising horse cart. Smith explains: You may have passed through Wabuska on your way from Weeks to Weed Heights without realizing this tiny hamlet once had a feisty newspaper called the Mangler. Well, it didn’t. The Wabuska… Continue…
Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2014.   Comments (1)

Emergent — An article in the NY Times briefly profiles Emergent, a new website created by Craig Silverman which aims to track the dissemination of rumors online. It records how many shares a rumor has received, and also assesses whether the rumor is true, false, or unverified. Looks like a very useful site! The NY Times article notes that the problem with false rumors is that "they're often much more interesting than the truth." Therefore, they get more widely shared. The challenge, says the Times, "is to make the facts as fun to share as the myths they seek to replace." Nice goal, but I don't see it ever happening. The false rumors can endlessly transform themselves to appeal to our deepest hopes and fears. Whereas the facts always have to remain boringly factual.
Posted: Wed Oct 01, 2014.   Comments (0)

Asahi Shimbun Corrects Itself — The Asahi Shimbun (circulation 7.6 million) recently issued some corrections. It was not true, despite previous statements, that writer Seiji Yoshida had kidnapped 200 women during World War II to act as "comfort women." Apparently Yoshida made up his claims. Nor was it true that workers at the Fukushima plant had disobeyed orders and fled the plant during the nuclear disaster. The newspaper misinterpreted documents. Finally, it wasn't true that the paper had interviewed the president of Nintendo. The paper had lifted responses from an interview published on the Nintendo website and passed them off as an Asahi Shimbun interview. iMediaEthics
Posted: Wed Oct 01, 2014.   Comments (0)

No, the EU is not banning kettles — The headline of today's Daily Express warned that the EU may ban kettles. Which sounds like something that would strike right at the heart of British culture. The reality, however, (as pointed out by fullfact.org) is a bit less sensational. An EU commission is investigating the energy consumption of kettles and may, in the future, suggest regulations that would make kettles more energy efficient and improve their impact on the environment. "Euromyths" (i.e. misleading stories about regulations supposedly dreamed up by overzealous EU bureaucrats) are very popular with the British… Continue…
Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014.   Comments (1)


Walmart will not run Williston PD — No, the police department of Williston, Florida is not being replaced by a privatized force "trained, managed, and wholly operated by Walmart." Confusion about this arose because fake-news site National Report posted a story claiming it was. The Williston PD eventually posted an announcement on its Facebook page, denying there was any truth to the report. The Williston PD's Communications Director, Sgt. James Bond, told a local news station that he had no idea why National Report chose Williston for their story. And yes, the Sergeant's name really is James Bond.
Posted: Tue Sep 02, 2014.   Comments (0)

An interview with a fake news site — The American Press Institute interviews the founders of Nipsys News, which is one of those sites that allows anyone to create fake news stories. Most recently Nipsys was responsible for a viral hoax alleging that the the legal drinking age in the U.S. would soon change to 25. The founders of Nipsys gloss over the ethics of what they're doing with some hand-waving about "freedom of expression." But at the end of the interview they offer some advice about how to identify fake news. And it's actually good advice: "We just advise readers to check if the information from the article can be found in other sources as well. Don’t trust just one source."
Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2014.   Comments (1)

Wrong Asian People — On April 19, Fox News ran a segment about the Korean ferry accident which showed what were identified as "relatives of the missing mourning." But bloggers noticed that the grieving people didn't appear to be Korean. Who were they? Apparently they were just some random, sad-looking people from Asia. Some have speculated that it's footage of Tibetans.
Posted: Thu May 08, 2014.   Comments (1)

The Bullshit Prevention Protocol — Michelle Nijhuis offers a method for recognizing fake news stories via training in what she calls a "Bullshit Prevention Protocol" (BPP). The protocol essentially zeroes in on the old Golden Rule of hoax-detection, which is that "Information is only as good as its source." So to spot fake news, one should spend the time to ascertain how credible the source of the news is. She uses an article recently published by the Daily Mail to illustrate how the BPP should work. The article claimed that "China starts televising the sunrise on giant TV screens because Beijing is so clouded in… Continue…
Posted: Fri May 02, 2014.   Comments (4)

Catching up with Stephen Glass — Stephen Glass can't catch a break. He burned his bridges in journalism, and now the lawyers don't want him either. Stephen Glass, journalist fired for fake stories, denied law license abclocal.go.com SAN FRANCISCO (KABC) -- Disgraced former journalist Stephen Glass was denied a license to practice law in California in a state supreme court ruling on Monday. The court ruled unanimously against Glass, a magazine writer who was fired after 31 of 42 high-profile stories were determined to…
Posted: Wed Jan 29, 2014.   Comments (2)

Beijing residents are not flocking to see virtual sunrises — Well, I fell for this. A recent article posted on the Daily Mail was headlined, "China starts televising the sunrise on giant TV screens because Beijing is so clouded in smog." An accompanying photo showed a giant TV screen in a smoggy Tiananmen Square showing a sunrise. The article elaborated: The smog has become so thick in Beijing that the city’s natural light-starved masses have begun flocking to huge digital commercial television screens across the city to observe virtual…
Posted: Tue Jan 21, 2014.   Comments (0)

Pastor drowns trying to walk on water — A news story has been circulating recently about a west African preacher, Franck Kabele, who drowned while trying to show his congregation that he could walk on water just like Jesus Christ. source: ReportGhanaNews.com This story is almost certainly a hoax that media outlets are repeating as real news. The Christian Post notes that this story about Franck Kabele was first reported in British papers back in August 2006. They say it first appeared in the Scottish Daily Record, but I…
Posted: Wed Jan 15, 2014.   Comments (0)

Lions at large in the Hamptons — Dan's Papers, which serves the Hamptons in New York, recently reported that lions were going to be released in order to cull the growing deer population in the region. The lions would be supplied, free of charge, by a wealthy South African industrialist who had recently bought a home there. The report disturbed some of the locals. According to southampton.patch.com: "[The police] fielded anywhere between 10 and 15 calls from residents voicing their anger at the 'news,' and at least…
Posted: Sun Jan 05, 2014.   Comments (2)

North Korean leader fed to hungry dogs? — NBC News A report is circulating, sourced to "a newspaper with close ties to China's ruling Communist Party" (according to NBC), alleging that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, eaten alive last month by a pack of 120 ravenous dogs. Gruesome stuff, if true. But Max Fisher of the Washington Post cautions that there are good reasons to doubt this story. The report comes from a small Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, which has a reputation for sensationalism.
Posted: Sat Jan 04, 2014.   Comments (1)

Man emerges from Y2K bunker after 15 years — The news of Norman Feller's emergence from his underground bunker has gone viral. The story is that Feller went into the bunker shortly before January 1, 2000, convinced that the Y2K virus was going to bring about the collapse of civilization. He finally came out because he was curious if the world really had ended. However, the source of the story is the CBC's satirical This is That radio show. The show has a history of these spoof pieces that get mistaken for real news. The last one…
Posted: Wed Dec 18, 2013.   Comments (2)

News anchors brave the elements, indoors — Everyone assumed that the Duluth Northland News Center team was outside during the coverage of the "Christmas City of the North" Parade on Nov 22. After all, they were wearing heavy jackets. But it turns out they were inside, in front of a green screen. But the News Director insists there was no deception because, if you want to get technical about it, they never actually said they were outside. [jimromenesko, mix108.com]
Posted: Thu Nov 28, 2013.   Comments (0)

King Tut’s Golden Typewriter — The Canadian journalist Hector Charlesworth included the following story in the second volume of his memoirs (More Candid Chronicles) published in 1928: A man designed by providence to add to the gaiety of nations was Charles Langdon Clarke, the cable editor [at Toronto's The Mail and Empire], a position he still holds as I write. Clarke, the son of an English rector, was the best educated of all the staff and had been a school mate of Lord Curzon. He had come to Canada originally as…
Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2013.   Comments (1)

Banksy Arrest Hoax — A press release posted yesterday on PRLog.com announced that not only had Banksy been arrested (on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting), but that his identity had been revealed—his real name supposedly being "Paul William Horner." The press release was a hoax, but a number of media outlets ran with the story before cottoning on to the deception. A humor site, IYWIB.com, appears to be behind the hoax. How a Fake Press Release Convinced the Internet Banksy…
Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2013.   Comments (3)

Johan Lehrer tries to understand himself — In July 2012, science writer Jonah Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker under a cloud of shame, after it was revealed that his latest book, Imagine, was full of fabricated quotations. Yesterday, he took what he may have been hoping was a first step toward rehabilitating his public image by giving a confessional talk at a Knight Foundation seminar in Miami. If image-rehabilitation was his goal, it probably didn't work, because most of the coverage of his talk was snarky and cynical…
Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2013.   Comments (0)

Sarah Palin isn’t joining the Al-Jazeera Network — File this under Satire Mistaken As News. Washington Post blogger Suzi Parker reported that Sarah Palin was going to start contributing to the Al Jazeera America news network, as a way to "stay relevant." The source for this info was an article on the humor site Daily Currant. Parker's blog post is now prefaced by a correction, and the erroneous info has been deleted. What Parker originally wrote was: Late last week Al Jazeera America announced the former vice-presidential candidate…
Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2013.   Comments (0)

The Disappearance of Rozel, 1897 — Rozel is a small town in the middle of Kansas. Population: 156. It was founded in 1886 — its main reason for existence being that it served as a stop on the Santa Fe railroad line. Throughout its history, it hasn't been in the news much. The one time it did receive national attention was back in 1897 when it supposedly disappeared, swallowed up by a giant sinkhole. The report of its disappearance went out in November 1897 and appeared in papers nationwide, including the New York Times:
Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2013.   Comments (2)

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